Dwight Moody during his day was much like Billy Graham today (the mid 1800s). People would flock from all over the countryside when he came to town preaching. Most preachers likely have a book or two of his filled with his sermons or insightful notes into the word of God. One thing Mr. Moody was exceptionally good at was incorporating local history into his lessons. He would learn the area, their history, their legends etc and use them to teach valuable lessons to the audience that gathered to hear him preach. One of the “career” song leaders that traveled with him to hear these sermons was Phillip Bliss. He was known for writing songs that specifically dealt with the topic which Mr. Moody was preaching on. If Moody preached a song on the sacrifice of Christ he would lead the song Hallelujah! What a Savior or I Gave My Life for Thee (both of which he wrote). In fact, many of the songs he wrote in his life were based upon a sermon which Moody had preached. On such of these songs is Let the Lower Lights Be Burning. In fact, this was a song not just based upon a sermon which Moody had preached, but on a sermon Moody preached that incorporated local history.
Cleveland, OH was a growing city on the western front of American civilization. They were hoping to use their access to the Great Lakes as a means to growing the city. They wanted to make it a port city. The problem with such a desire is that while Cleveland had lake access, it was not a particularly good access. The water was hazardous rocks lined the coast. Even during the day time it took skill to get the ships to harbor. In the evening it was just too dangerous. While the townspeople kept encouraging ships to dock there, in hopes of helping the local economy too many ships steered into the rocks, learning the hard way that it was too much of a risk. In time the town decided to put up a lighthouse on one of its bluffs. This helped exceedingly. Several captains knew that this lighthouse would give them a beacon in the night. As they began to come into port at night, the problems continued, ships were still hitting rocks. The lone lighthouse was not enough. Yes, it was essential, but it only pointed at the rocks on one side of this hazardous entry point into Cleveland. So again, like many of the ships that tried to enter in, Cleveland’s hopes were dashed against the rocks. Cleveland eventually decided to put in a second lighthouse along the other side on the shoreline itself. This become known as the lower lighthouse. It sent its light directly across the waters. It worked perfectly. The upper light should were the land was, the lower lights showed where the dangerous rocks were and the ships were able to come into the harbor at night. Cleveland owes much of its growth to these two lighthouses (the upper and lower lights).
But on one stormy eve the lower light went out. A ship was trying to get into the harbor. As the storm pressed the ship they even struggled to see the upper light, but at last it was spotted. They began making their way into the harbor. When they approached the area the lower light should have assisted them with, it never shined forth its light for it had gone out. By the time the captain had realized this it was two late and the ship was run aground. Many lost their lives that night. The sermon which Moody preached concerning this song was about the importance of us, the lower lights, to be burning. Yes, Jesus is the upper light that lets the ships know that land is near, gives them hope in the storms of life, etc. But unless that lower light is there to guide many end up making a shipwreck of their faith. Now, consider the words of the song. “Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from the lighthouse ever more, but to us he gives the keeping of the lights along the shore. Dark the night of sin has settled, loud and angry billows roar. Eager eyes are watching longing for the lights along the shore. Trim your feeble lamp my brother, some poor sailor tempest tossed, trying now to make the harbor in the darkness may be lost. Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave, some poor fainting struggling seaman, you may rescue you may save.”
Yes, God’s light shines brightly, but he has charged us with the task of taking God’s word to the lost (Matt. 28:19-20). Brethren, this is our anniversary. We have been working this “coast” together for the last 3 years. Let us keep the lower lights burning in the year to come. There are too many sailors out there in grave danger of making a shipwreck of their souls.
Grinnell church of Christ
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Let the Lower Lights be Burning
Volume 4 Issue 1 December 2, 2012